The Waitaki District Council is bringing life back to Oamaru’s Friendly Bay one family fun day at a time.
From the early 1950s, the Friendly Bay Christmas Carnival was held annually, entertaining the people of North Otago and visitors alike.
It featured baby shows, sharp shooters, sand modelling, musical groups, pet parades, talent contests and lolly scrambles.
Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher, who went to the carnival as a child, said “it was always a great thing”.
But the carnival faded away as people started heading out of town over the New Year period, and it was held for the last time in 1979.
Over the following years, the harbour was “a bit neglected”, Mr Kircher said.
Other amenities in the area closed down too, such as the Friendly Bay Improvement Society’s tea rooms and changing rooms.
But the area started to be revitalised about 16 or 17 years ago, “with a lot of discussions, planning and implementation”, Mr Kircher said.
When Mr Kircher became mayor seven years ago, he saw a chance to use it as a venue for a family day event.
Recapturing the carnival magic, he started the Friendly Bay Family Fun Day in 2016 and had received plenty of feedback from older people who said it reminded them of the old carnival days.
“I felt that we had succeeded.”
Mr Kircher said it was a great day for people to spend time with their families at a small cost – or no cost at all.
“There’s a real goodwill from the community in helping run things, and the attractions they add.”
But it was not just one thing people could look forward to, he said. On the water and the land, there were a multitude of activities planned – from a beach dig and sandcastles, to face painting, food stalls and live music.
“Kids can keep busy for hours.”
Although most of the activities were designed for children, that did not stop an elderly couple from coming down and watching the fun with ice creams in their hands, he said.
The fun would start at 11am and run until 3pm tomorrow.